Can the Internet Be Dangerous for My Kids?

The internet provides a wealth of access and knowledge about the world at the ease of our fingertips. We can find nearly anything that we want from the internet, and almost anyone can post content online, whether the content is truthful or intentionally misleading. Kids are growing up with the internet and never lived in a world without it. Many of their social activities, school, and future careers will depend heavily upon the internet.

Addiction and Dangerous Content

While the internet has several benefits, we know that some information can be misleading, disturbing, or even dangerous for our kids. In addition, social media apps, games, streaming services, and other forms of entertainment can be addictive, especially for the teenage mind. Kids might have relied on social media apps to stay connected to friends during lockdowns and are now struggling to get away from their phones. 

While we cannot stop our kids from ever using the internet, the best that we can do is teach them to use the internet responsibly. We may need to restrict access and find activities that fulfill similar needs as the internet. Many of us are aware of the dangers of excessive use and internet addiction; however, even if our kids are not online excessively, we need to consider what sites and content they view.

Can Online Videos Be Traumatic?

We might not take video content too seriously or dismiss the potential severity of the impact on our child’s mental health and development. However, some shocking and disturbing videos exist online. While some social media outlets like Facebook place warnings over potentially disturbing content, kids can easily look at the content regardless. As a result, they can be exposed to violent, racist, or sexually graphic content with just one swipe of their fingers.

Trauma is not always a physical act upon the victim. Some events are traumatic just by witnessing something violent, shocking, or disturbing. Children could witness a news event, such as a terrorist attack or a natural disaster online that can traumatize them. They might see pornography that disturbs them or makes them feel intense shame. Our brains struggle to differentiate between witnessing something in-person or on a video. Some internet content can lead to a traumatic response.

Content posted for and moderated by adults only can easily fall into our children’s hands. Some media outlets like Reddit and 4chan offer unregulated and unfiltered content to users. Users can post a wide range of insensitive and offensive content without any moderation from the sites themselves. As parents, we need to know what our kids are looking at and whether the platforms that they access regularly are moderated for offensive content or not.

The Dangers of Cyberbullying

Aside from content posted by adults for adults that our kids can accidentally stumble upon, kids can be bullied over the internet. Posting to social media can leave kids vulnerable to comments from their classmates, peers, or even strangers. While online, kids might say things they usually would not say face-to-face. They can confront or insult one another without dealing with the immediate consequences of seeing someone’s hurt feelings or getting into a physical fight. 

Our kids can easily be prey to online bullying; however, they might also engage in similar behaviors. Many find it easy to comment or message others, forgetting that they are on the receiving end. Our kids need to remember that they should not say things online that they would never say to another person face-to-face. Kids could potentially get carried away, unintentionally hurting the feelings of others while online.

What Can We Do To Keep Kids Safe?

Our role as parents is to guide our kids to develop healthy relationships with social media and the internet. As we learned during the pandemic, our kids will likely depend upon the internet for schooling, socializing, and work. We cannot just take these things away from them until they are old enough. We need to be actively involved in helping our kids safely use and navigate the internet.

We can do some of the following to keep our kids safe online:

  • Collect electronic devices before bedtime so that kids do not have access alone in their bedrooms.
  • Turn off the wifi at specific times of the day.
  • If our kids need the internet to complete homework, we can set up a space for them in a common area of the house.
  • Block specific sites and use parental controls on all devices that our kids have access to online.
  • Talk to the parents of our kid’s friends about their rules regarding the internet. Even if we control access in our own homes, our child’s friends might expose them to harmful content.
  • Talk to our kids about what they do while online, and let them know we are here for them if they see something they do not understand or find disturbing.
  • Ask kids directly about issues like cyberbullying and remind them to tell us about any bullying behaviors they experience.

The internet can be informative and fun for kids to explore. They might use online platforms to connect to friends, find special interest groups, study, or learn more about their hobbies. However, the internet can also present dangers to kids if they are exposed to harmful content. While some social media platforms have safeguards to block insensitive or offensive content, many sites are not closely monitored. Some sites allow users to post violent, controversial, false, pornographic, and offensive content without warning or safeguards. As parents, we want to protect our kids from any shocking or disturbing content that could be disturbing or traumatic for them to witness. Online content can also be distressing. If you are concerned about your child’s behavior online and worried that they are engaging in problematic behaviors, Fire Mountain Residential Treatment Center is here to help. Call us today at (303) 443-3343 for additional information and support.

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